Rules of Engagement (Part 5)

The fifth and final installment of this series is all about our animal instincts.  Deep down we are all animals and if you believe in evolution (like any sound-minded individual should) then you know that we have inherited our traits, such as fierce loyalty and protecting our loved one, from our ancestors.  Traits such as these should be celebrated and admired because without them, family units would not stay intact throughout generations.

Being loyal to who you love and what you believe in is one of the most admirable qualities someone can possess.  I can only speak for myself but I do know that I bond to people for life.  And once I am bonded, that’s it.  All bets are off and I will be by your side until the end.  I have said this many times, when talking about my connection with Hugo to people – if we both lost our jobs and ended up living in a van, down by the river (RIP Chris Farley), I would happily live in that van with him.  I could decorate it very nicely and we would enjoy the river-front location together.

As I ponder what it means to be protective of those that you love, I can’t help but also think of the word jealousy.  Jealousy normally has a negative connotation but I truly believe that a small, healthy amount of jealousy is a good thing.  For instance, when my husband’s phone beeps with four text messages all of a sudden and when asked, he replies that it is from a female coworker, I can’t help but feel like, “Who the hell is this girl?!!?!”  Now, I know I have nothing to worry about because Hugo loves me beyond belief and he would never cheat on me.  I truly know that.  But the animal side of KK can’t help but perk her ears up, have her back arched, and swat her tail back and forth.  Hugo is the prize I hold dearest to my heart and I protect him like a hungry lioness guards a fresh kill from nearby hyenas.

I think all women, and men for that matter, actually have those instinctual feelings, and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of.  I joke with my husband all of the time about how I feel because he should know.  It is actually a bit flattering to have your significant other get a little worked up over someone else potentially being interested in them.  And don’t kid yourself – when I have been flirted with or pursued by other men, Hugo postures up and flares his nostrils, so to speak, as well.

Rules of Engagement (Part 4)

Writer’s Note:  As I sat down to write this, I was surrounded by our two, full-grown Rottweilers (Kaiser & Nala), who had four squeaky toys between them.  Our dogs are big teddy bears, who we raised from pups and wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Every time they have toys out to play with, they purposely position themselves with the toys between them as they begin a slow, low-growl standoff, that involves neither one of them being allowed to move as they mad dog each other.  These standoffs usually last about fifteen minutes, followed by either us separating them or a little Rottweiler dominance brawl, which sometimes results in a nipped ear or bruised ego.  I love the honest instincts that they can’t deny and don’t hide.  Dogs have so much to teach us about being real, caring about your family, and sometimes, when absolutely necessary, fighting with your sibling over a tennis ball.

Without further ado…

Never quit.  Never quit on pursuing something you love, never quit on a relationship you want to be invested in, and never quit on yourself.  Sometimes it is easier said than done because struggle, by definition, is not the path of least resistance.

Throughout the years, Hugo and I have had our fair share of arguments.  Some of these arguments pushed us to the point of questioning why we were together.  I think that is natural when the emotions run high and you are passionate about how you feel and who you are fighting with.  Our argument style is also very different – I want to resolve the issue right away while Hugo would prefer taking some time to cool off, then discussing the issue later.  When we did question if our relationship was worth keeping, it hurt my heart at the worst possible level.  I always knew that I could never live without him and sometimes it took hitting rock bottom to reinforce that feeling.  Hugo felt the same way and always told me so afterwards.  The old saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”  Well, in our case, it was almost gone a few times and that always opened my eyes the widest to the fact that nothing should be taken for granted.

Over the years, our arguments have subsided almost completely.  This is in part due to our maturing with age and our reduced alcohol consumption (alcohol was like kerosene on our arguments).  We recently talked about this and we came to the same conclusion.  Bottom line, we never want to be apart.  He is my soul mate and I am his.  None of the bad outweighs the overwhelming amount of good in our relationship.

After thinking about it for a while, I think that is the true relationship test.  When you examine a relationship in your life, whether it is between your significant other, another family member or a friend, if the bad does not outweigh the good and you want this person in your life, that answers the question all by itself and it is worth fighting for.  Love should prevail and if it doesn’t, that is a loud indidcation that you are not with the right person.  And finally, if you decide to stay in the relationship, you make a pact to never quit.  If you don’t make quitting on each other an option, the joy you can experience as a couple is limitless.

As I find myself doing fairly regularly in this blog, I will end this post with an update from Hugo’s kitchen.  Pineapple shrimp are about to hit the grill and they will be the star of some fat, Cali burritos for dinner.  Oh, and also some stuffed clams and Alden’s Organic mint chip ice cream (if you don’t know about Alden’s, do yourself a favor and click that link, it’s the best damn organic ice cream around).  Now that’s how you heal a wounded knee, with lots of love and lots of food.


Rules of Engagement (Part 3)

It is a quarter past nine on this balmy evening in SoCal and I am putting fingers to keyboard to begin segment three of my relationship series Rules of Engagement.  Prior to starting this, I jotted down a handful of topics I wished to write about.  The topics came easily to me and all of them are vital to my own relationship with Hugo.  This topic in particular is something that Hugo and I talk about on a regular basis as we strive to continuously improve our own relationship.  And the second part of the topic is sometimes discussed at our dinner table, after we both come home from work with stories about obnoxious coworkers.  And so, part 3 is about speaking kindly to one another and of one another.

All couples talk every day, all day long, bicker now and then, and seriously argue on the occasional basis (hopefully no more than that).   Since you interact with your spouse nonstop (realistically, more than anyone else in the world), it is reasonable that over time you begin speaking to them not only in the most relaxed manner but also sometimes not in the most ideal way.  You might snap at them a little faster than you would with a friend or coworker. You also might use harsh or hurtful words when you argue with them.  In the heat of the moment, sometimes all bets are off.  However, none of the mean things we say, in the midst of an argument, do we mean.

We all get increasingly comfortable in routine environments in life.  The way I look at it is this:  treat and speak to your spouse as if the person you are speaking to is the most important person in your world.  Don’t take them for granted.  Remember how much you love them and if a stranger spoke unkindly to them, it would bother you.  Sometimes a good reminder about treating each other kindly is a good thing because it never hurts to try a little harder to be good to one another.

So that is the first part.  The second part moves from your relationship to the outside world.  Since your spouse or significant other is such a huge part of your life, it is inevitable that they come up in conversation with others very frequently.  I love my husband very much and I am proud of who he is as a good human being, my partner in life and a hard-working professional.  Because of this, I like talking about him.  A lot.  I brag about him and compare all other men I meet against him, because he is my standard for what a real man should be – honest, loving and real.

As you would imagine, based on how I write about Hugo, I speak very highly of him to everyone I know that will listen.  The same can’t be said of what I hear being said about other people’s spouses.  It is sad and shocking to hear how so many other people in the world speak about their loved ones.  It’s almost as if certain individuals think that it makes them look “cool” to make fun of, berate, or belittle their husbands or wives during conversation with other people.  I think that behavior is not only a testament to their relationship but also speaks loudly of their character.  The importance of speaking kindly of your spouse can’t just be measured by a bystander but think of the impact those sweet, or hurtful, words have on your husband or wife.

From personal experience, it warms my heart every time I am told about the nice things Hugo has to say about me.  It has happened many times and it never gets old.  To feel loved is an amazing feeling and we should all hope to make those close to us feel loved every day.

Rules of Engagement (Part 2)

As I embark on segment two of this series (which I didn’t even intend to write as a series but I realized I was going to write a book otherwise), I found it difficult to settle on what topic to discuss next.  None of my relationship-essential topics are being presented in any particular order because I truly value all of them as being just as vital as the next.  This topic, however, seems especially relevant today.  This is because I have been fairly helpless since last Friday, which my steady readership knows was the date of my fifth knee surgery.  In my time of need, my husband has been there, helping and attending to me in every way possible.  Caring for someone is the ultimate expression of love and that is why part two is about selflessness.

Hugo and I demonstrate selflessness pretty damn well and that is something I am proud of.  Someone from the outside might wrongly interpret this behavior as “waiting on” your husband or wife, by bringing them something to eat or drink so they don’t have to get up from the couch, or “spoiling” your significant other by surprising them with a small gift that you know they will enjoy.  This incorrect interpretation is applied when you choose to view these acts in a negative light.  Instead, if you choose to view this expression of love in a positive manner, then you understand they are selfless acts.  It makes me incredibly happy to care for the ones I love, including my husband and parents.  In fact, I find more joy in buying gifts for and doting on my loved ones than I do for myself.

Whether it is waking up early to pack lunch for someone you love, or spending hours constructing eight pieces of assembly-needed patio furniture (both of those examples are anchored in truth), acts of love towards others is a habit worth having.  Being selfless has invaluable benefits to a relationship and to the world at large.  Just imagine the implications to humanity if everyone put others ahead of themselves.  What a beautiful world it would be.



Rules of Engagement (Part 1)

I want to start this off by saying that I am by no means a marriage expert, certified therapist or relationship guru.  I am, however, someone who has actively engaged in a healthy union for almost half of my life.  As a side note, it is pretty cool to realize that you have almost spent half of your life committed to someone else.  I admire the commitment of long-lasting relationships and marvel at the decades of love our family members have shown to us: my parents have been married for over forty years, his parents have been married for nearly 40 as well, and his grandparents, one of whom recently passed away (we love and miss you Bob) were married for over seventy years.  You read that correctly, 70 years!  That, in and of itself, deserves an award.  Long-term love is a fading element of modern day living and it is truly a shame.

Over the past fourteen years with my Hugo, we have learned (not always the easy way) the best rules to govern our love by.  Some of them appear rather simple and most of them are easier said than done.  Sometimes the most straightforward of concepts are truly the most suitable.  For instance, the suggestion to “Be kind to one another” is such an easy concept but such an under-valued one at that.  None of these rules came easily, immediately or without constant work and reassessment.  In fact, a relationship is a living, breathing organism so these rules should consciously and mindfully be applied all of the time.  And as I write this, I also realize these points are not only applicable to romantic relationships.  I try to respect and love all of my relationships in life in the same manner.

I have organized a short list of vital relationship components that I have dubbed Rules of Engagement.  The first rule is to communicate, even if it hurts.  This can be a very difficult thing to do and sometimes an even more difficult thing to receive. It can sting, it can hurt our heart, it can anger us.  But in the end, I think all human beings would rather hear the truth, as raw and aggressive as it may be, than some bullshit, softer lie.  Or, even worse sometimes, not hearing anything at all.  The absence of words creates a disconnect that can be even more brutal than any words at all.  I am honest with all of my relationships and I value the truth from those close to me.

As I reflect on our past together, the moment that sticks in my mind is from a couple of years ago when I had gained about twenty pounds as a result of several knee injuries.  My lifestyle and activity level had changed, due to inactivity and mild depression from being hurt, and in turn, my body changed.  And as anyone who has gained weight knows, the depression that initially fueled the weight gain and disregard for our own bodies only multiples as we continue not caring about ourselves.  The cycle continues and nobody wins.

When I found myself in this place, I could sense that Hugo was less and less interested in me physically.  He didn’t say anything right away but I could feel it.  He wasn’t being as outwardly romantic as he always is and I immediately felt as if he didn’t find me pretty anymore.  I know that you, as the reader, only know what I tell you but if you know one thing about Hugo, know this: he is the most kind and loving man that I know (and probably you know).  Hugo’s love for me, and my love for him, runs much deeper than surface level. However, physical attraction does exist and should exist in this world.  And when I asked him if something was wrong, I already knew the answer.  I wasn’t taking care of myself and I wasn’t loving myself, evidence by my disregard for my own body.  If I wasn’t loving myself, how could I expect someone else to love me?  Again, he did love me and he does love me but at that moment, he wasn’t wildly attracted to me.  And after we talked about it and got to the bottom of it, he was less attracted to me because I was not loving myself.

It wasn’t easy to share that.  We are very private people, if you can believe that, and I don’t like airing our personal business.  But I also believe that by being transparent, not only can we become better people and partners for each other, but there is also the possibility that my story can help someone else.

On that day, Hugo and I got another notch closer as a couple.  It hurt a little when we talked about it but it mostly hurt because I knew the truth.  The truth was that I wasn’t taking care of myself and I wasn’t loving myself.  Being kind to your own body exudes a level of confidence and self-love that the world can see and feel.  I appreciate and love my husband for being honest with me and talking to me.  From that day on, we made a pact to always be transparent about our feelings, even if it isn’t pretty sometimes.  Even if it might be tough for the other person to receive.  Because in the end, what is better…saying something and having the delivery be tough or not saying anything, letting the issue marinate and grow, without an issue ever being addressed or resolved?

And I almost forgot…not only did we grow closer, learn even more about the importance of communicating and deepen our love for each other, but I also learned a little bit more about loving myself.